The very best brands are multi-dimensional: combining a highly believable and engaging brand story; a clear, distinct and consistent brand style and identity; a marketplace positioning that sets them apart from their main competitors; topped off with a purpose that captures the very essence of the brand. That is why the IKEA brand is so very good, right up there with the best in the world. It ticks every single one of these essential brand dimensions.
So many brands go with the more traditional brand promise approach to positioning themselves. Telling people in clear terms what their brand offers. The next level, the Premier League status brands go beyond that and establish what matters – the brand’s purpose. In the case of IKEA, they have the brilliant “The Wonderful Everyday” which puts the focus on how they engage with customers, not simply describing what they sell. It is not just the big things in life, like cars and holidays that matter to us, we can all take pleasure from the small, everyday items as well, which captures the essence of how they engage with their customers. It fits perfectly with the in-store experience where they tempt you with so many very affordable small items, as well as the bigger ones, so that by the time you reach the checkout you are buying a trolley load. Retail genius.
Expertly linked to the brand purpose is the style and identity built from their roots in Sweden, utilising the blue and yellow of the national flag in a bold statement of origin, along with the big blue box design of their stores. It is a colour scheme that also combines the solidity, professionalism and trust of the blue colour with the optimism, joy and hope of the yellow. This choice of colour is no coincidence, the best brands know exactly how people respond to specific colours and utilise the psychology of colour in brand choice and influencing buyer behaviour.
From opening its first store in Sweden in the 1950’s it is now a global brand, up there with compatriots ABBA and Volvo in brand recognition. They publish their catalogue in 56 countries and 30 languages. From the outset is has been a brand that aimed to put the power into the hands of the consumer by designing and building affordable quality into their products. In their words: “a long tradition of thoughtful design and design for the masses.” In 1995 IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad published a pamphlet called ‘Three Dimensions’ describing what lay behind their success. These were the words: Form, Function and Price. Typical of the IKEA philosophy this captures both the simplicity and the depth of their branding. When we wanted to kit out the Luna office it was IKEA that we chose to balance the clean, contemporary styling we wanted with a cost that was acceptable. It is a core brand message that has universal appeal to consumers and businesses alike.
Design and innovation are also integral to the brand. This includes the original idea for flat-pack furniture famously coming from an IKEA draughtsman Gillis Lundgren who removed the legs off a large table to fit it into his car and the rest is history!
Aesthetics and design have been at the heart of their furniture from the outset with a belief that they can be combined with affordability, being cheaper does not equate to being poor quality.
Their brand story epitomises the slightly wacky, offbeat humour common to the Scandinavians. Their adverts can never be described as boring. They consciously and deliberately use this style of unconventional marketing to confirm their distinct position in the market, in stark contrast to the more traditional household companies. It is not light and humorous for the sake of it, or just to stand out, it is packaged expertly as an integral part of the whole brand experience. The same applies to “The Wonderful Everyday” which is not a promotional slogan, it has so much more depth and meaning, at the level of Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ and Apple’s ‘Think Different.’ They understood years before it became trendy that storytelling is both engaging and enduring. Distinctive storytelling continues to be a prominent aspect of the IKEA branding with people usually at the centre of the tale.
The genius of the IKEA brand is that they have crafted the whole brand not the individual parts. They have not been tempted into advertising campaigns that switch the positioning in an attempt to appeal to different clients. They know their target audience very well; they understand how they want to position themselves and they are ruthless in the consistent and coherent way that they manage their brand building over time. They are a truly global brand with high visibility, instant recognition and crystal-clear market positioning.
Alun Williams, Managing Director Luna Branding, is a brand strategist who says he has the pleasure of making his passion for branding also his business. Having previously been a corporate Marketing Director, he brings the experience and perspective of managing brands as the client, to his agency’s strategic and creative work aligning and repositioning companies; and building brands.
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